20 MARZO 2016
Interview: Iran plays essential role in reaching new equilibrium in Middle East: Italian experts

ROME, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Iran could play a crucial role in bringing about a new equilibrium in the Middle East after the western world has lifted its sanctions against Iran in the wake of a deal over its nuclear program, Italian experts have said.

"Iran can play an essential role in creating a better balance in the Middle East, considering the existing tensions between Sunnis and Shias, and within the same Sunni countries," Andrea Margelletti, president of Rome-based Center for International Studies (CeSI), told Xinhua in an interview.

"If Iran goes back to being a reference partner for the West, this would certainly have a rebalancing effect (in the region), with undoubted benefits for Europe and the United States as well".

Margelletti spoke on the sidelines of a forum on Iran's international posture in President Hassan Rouhani's era, organized by Italy's Ansa news agency and CeSI on March 17.

Iranian Ambassador to Rome Jahanbakhsh Mozaffari and Italian Foreign Ministry Director General for Political Affairs and Security Luca Giansanti took part in the event, which also featured chairman of Italian Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Pier Ferdinando Casini.

The forum addressed the possible scenarios on the international stage after the July 2015 Vienna Agreement on Iran's nuclear program, which resulted in the end of the economic sanctions imposed by the West on the Islamic Republic.

That agreement marked "a landmark opening moment by the Iranian Government, after nearly forty years of isolation and distrust towards the outside," according to CeSi analysts.

"The success of the Vienna agreement seems to have opened a season, although still in its early stages, of resumption of relations between the Iranian government and several Western States," CeSi said in a dedicated paper unveiled at the forum.

Yet, while Iran-U.S. relations might still suffer from a deep mutual distrust built up over 40 years of antagonism, "the Iranian government seems particularly proactive in trying to increase its ties with Europe, either with single countries, or multilaterally by a direct dialogue with Brussels," the analysts noted.

"Creating a new climate of trust also allowed Iran to successfully seek recognition for its role as a reliable and indispensable western partner for the precarious Middle East order," they wrote.

But how could Iran play such a role in reshaping the Middle East? According to CeSI president, "there are many areas in which Iran can work along with the West".

"Just consider the large Shia community in Southern Lebanon, or the fact that Iraq has a wide Shia majority," Margelletti explained.

Other examples were Bahrain, the tiny Shiite-majority country led by a Sunni monarchy that hosts a strategic U.S. naval base for operations in the Persian Gulf; and also Yemen, with its large Shia population, and Saudi Arabia with its Shia minority.

"And there is Syria, of course: a context in which a very 'big game' is being played, and where the Sunni world is divided into several rivulets, or we may say into turbulent streams," Margelletti said.

"If Iran is part of a problem, it is undoubtedly part of the solution as well," he pointed out.

Top Italian officials agreed with the perspective.

"Iran cannot be seen only as a problem, but as a resource and a partner, without which nothing can be fixed in the Eastern world," chairman of Italy's Senate Foreign Affairs committee Casini said at the forum.

As such, the resumption of relations between President Rouhani's government and the West should imply a shift not only in Iran's stance, but also in the Western approach to the Middle East.

"Iran must play its part at global level, and it is partially doing so already," Casini told Xinhua.

"Yet, the new openness with Iran should go with a reassessment of our (Western) policy towards the Sunni world, which bears a heavy responsibility for the current instability," he added.

The Shia-Sunni divide did not represent the sole split tearing the Muslim world apart, according to the Italian official.

Tension was in fact running high also between the Sunni monarchies in the Gulf, or between two major Sunni countries like Turkey and Egypt, and such frictions would reverberate in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and beyond.

"It suffices to think about how much funds (the Sunni world) has provided to Islamic State (IS) and other radical groups, like Al Qaeda, hoping this way to be immunized against such radicalism," Casini said.

The West has approached the problems of the single countries in the Middle East as if "they were islands", and tried to solve them separately for too long, CeSI chief analyst added.

"The essential point is seeking a regional agreement instead," Margelletti told Xinhua.

"Given that Iran is a most relevant actor in the region, leaving the dialogue constantly open with them is crucial, especially on the most divisive issues".

Fonte: China - Europe